three albums even these band’s biggest fans don’t listen to – but I do!

I’m pretty picky when it comes to music. I don’t listen to new bands too much, and it takes me a long time to get interested in a group before I’ll start buying their albums. Even then, it’s likely that only one or two of their albums will make it into my rotation.

There are a lot of bands, then, that I simply don’t listen to. There are a small number of bands that I just don’t like, and that’s what I’m here to talk to you about today – the albums I listen to (and even love) by bands that I don’t particularly care for.

Poison. Anthrax. Mötley Crüe.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these bands, but I just never got into them in a big way. Each had a few songs here and there that I liked, but never enough to buy an album or go see in concert.

Poison had a good singer (Brett Michaels) and guitarist (CC Deville), but they were too far out on the pop edge for me to be interested in their music. Anthrax was huge at a time I wasn’t particularly into thrash metal, but to be perfectly honest, I just couldn’t get into the way their singer (Joey Belladonna) did his thing. With Mötley Crüe, it was more them than their music; I was just not into notorious drug users and people who seemed to revel in their excess. I’m definitely not a fan of their singer (Vince Neil) in either his singing abilities or his personal life. I’ve been touched too closely by death at the hands of a drunk driver to ever really give Neil a chance, seeing as how he killed somebody while driving drunk. Plus I think we can all agree that the production on their first couple of albums was abysmal.

So.

What’s significant about each of these bands is that they had an album (or in Anthrax’s case, four) with a replacement. Mötley Crüe parted ways with Neil in favor of John Corabi. Corabi stayed with the band from 1992 through 1996, recording one album titled Mötley Crüe. CC Deville left (or was fired from) Poison in 1991; he continued to struggle with drug and alcohol addictions even after his restoration a decade later. Richie Kotzen replaced Deville for the band’s 1993 album Native Tongue and one tour, but left after becoming romantically involved with the drummer’s fiancé. Anthrax fired Joey Belladonna in 1992, replacing him with John Bush. The band came back in 1993 with their album Sound of White Noise and continued with Bush as their singer until he left the band in 2005.

In each of these instances, there’s something about the altered chemistry of the respective bands with the swap of just one member that knocks it out of the park.

With Mötley Crüe, Corabi snaps off the polished edges of the band, leaving behind something that is surprisingly fierce and raw. Suddenly Tommy Lee is pounding the drums with passion and a rock-solid sense of timing. Mick Mars’ guitar work has the power and depth of a towering guitar giant. Even Nikki Sixx comes across as a thundering bassist, locked into the grooves and pushing the songs forward in a way that “Girls, Girls, Girls” never could.

Bush does exactly the opposite for Anthrax, rising up from the raw edginess of the Belladonna years, pulling the guitars of Dan Spitz and Scott Ian into a cohesive, blistering collective. Charlie Benante’s drums – well, they don’t really change. He plays the way he plays, and so does Frankie Bello on the bass. There’s a change in attitude and tone – a band that’s always been on the cusp of bitterness turns that into anger and power.

NativeTongueThe biggest change in all of these instances is the substitution of Richie Kotzen for CC Deville in Poison. When this happened back in 1992, the hair metal world was stunned and everybody wondered how long it would last. Nobody figured it would be a lover’s triangle that caused the destruction, everybody figured it would be musical incompatibility in the long run that did them in. The one album Poison recorded with Kotzen sounds so unlike their previous albums that it’s like listening to a completely different band. Not that Deville was a slouch as a guitarist, but Kotzen was more than just another guitar slinger – he was (is) a serious musician with serious chops. It was a transformation that made Brett Michaels into a voice to be taken seriously – a singer who could do pop and serious rock as well. Drummer Rikki Rocket and bass player Bobby Dall found themselves with a newfound sense of being taken seriously as instrumentalists, something that surprised a lot of people – especially me.

Let’s start with Poison’s Native Tongue album. It was the band’s fourth album, released in February 1993, and produced by Richie Zito. Native Tongue produced two popular singles, “Stand” and “Until You Suffer Some Fire and Ice,” both of which charted in the US and the UK with varying levels of success.

The overall pace of Native Tongue is slower, more languid and more … swampy than Poison’s previous offerings. There’s more focus on difficult emotions, injustice, and every person’s fight to stay afloat. Thought still primarily a guitar-driven album, the instrumentation expanded to include mandolin, piano and dobro. Kotzen’s soulful backing vocals prove a gritty foil to Michaels’ smoothness – not unlike the lead/backing vocal duos of Jon Bon Jovi/Richie Sambora and Gary Cherone/Nuno Bettencourt (of Extreme).

The riffs across the album are more complex and introduce influences from other genres, such as funk, R&B/soul, and even jazz. The songs demand to be taken seriously, and Kotzen’s guitar playing can’t be ignored as the force behind it all. This isn’t to say that Poison abandons fun – they still sing about getting laid, partying, and rock and roll.

Standout tracks from Native Tongue include “Stand,” “Body Talk,” “Bring It Home,” “Theater of the Soul” (a stellar power ballad akin to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), and “Ride Child Ride,” but there isn’t a truly bad song on the disc. The closest they come to the pre-Kotzen Poison sound is “Ain’t That the Truth,” and even then the resemblance is fleeting. The inclusion of a brief acoustic guitar instrumental seems indulgent, and “Richie’s Acoustic Thing” is the one track that could have been dumped without negatively affecting the flow of the album.

Notably, Native Tongue was the last Poison album to go Gold (certified 500,000 sales) in the US and Platinum in Canada (just 80,000 copies). These sales levels are nothing compared to Open Up and Say Ah! (1988), which went five times Platinum in the US (5 million sold) and Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986), which was a triple-Platinum-selling album, as was their 1990 disc, Flesh & Blood.

Poison replaced Kotzen with guitar phenom Blues Saraceno, but the two new songs on their 1996 greatest hits compilation (which featured only “Stand” from Native Tongue) didn’t have the same tension as when Kotzen was in the band. The 2000 album with Saraceno wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. Deville came back for the band’s 2002 album and his return has (so far) proven permanent. Poison is back to its lighter, fun fare, and the band hasn’t regularly played any songs from this album in its concerts since Kotzen left the band. By 1999, they were on a steady diet of the songs from their first two albums, and even on the tour after the album with Saraceno, they barely played any songs that weren’t from their first two albums.

WhiteNoiseAnthrax switched singers in 1992, firing Joey Belladonna and pinching John Bush from his interesting – but obscure – band, Armored Saint. Bush’s introduction into the band coincided with Anthrax switching record labels and brought about a change in their general sound. They pulled back from the pure, unadulterated thrash of their early albums as well as the thread of silliness that shot through much of their material. They moved more towards a straight-ahead rock/metal sound, albeit on the heavier end of such a sound.

Sound of White Noise was their first album with Bush and their last with longtime lead guitarist Dan Spitz (who left the band to become a watchmaker – and I’m not kidding about that). It’s the perfect meeting of tone, talent and attitude, and that’s exactly why this album has always resonated deeply with me.

The standout tracks on White Noise are “Only” and “Black Lodge,” of course – the two singles. “Black Lodge” is probably the closest thing Anthrax ever recorded to a ballad, and it’s a smoldering pressure cooker of a song that just seethes with depth and emotion. “Only” is the best song Anthrax ever wrote as far as I’m concerned. Other excellent songs on this disc are “Hy Pro Glo,” “ This Is Not an Exit,” “Room for One More,” and “Packaged Rebellion.” Unlike Poison’s Kotzen album, there’s no goofy acoustic instrumental that could be cut, but they do one thing that drives me crazy; the first full minute of the first track on the album (“Potter’s Field”) is …well, white noise. Static. I get it, it plays in with the album title, but it’s annoying. Too many bands do this, and it’s irritating EVERY time, even more so on a fantastic album.

Bush doesn’t just bring depth to the songs, he brings vocal harmonies as well, something that was either not done or done poorly on previous albums. Bush sings with a gritty style and has a nice, wide range that spans from deep, nearly guttural vocals to near screaming. The drums and bass tones are thick and full, and the twin guitar onslaught of Spitz and Ian feels just on the edge of chaos. What always appealed to me about this album is its more straight-ahead metal feel, rather than the outright punishing thrash of their first few albums. Even when it was Megadeth or Metallica, the thrashiest of songs never appealed to me – think “Damage, Inc.”

Anthrax packed their Bush-era tours with songs from his albums; the tour supporting White Noise featured “Potters Field,” “Room for One More,” “Hy Pro Glo,” “Packaged Rebellion,” “Black Lodge” and the set closer, “Only.” These last two songs would stay in their concert rotation throughout Bush’s time with the band, but disappeared when Belladonna returned to the fold in 2005.

Unlike Poison or Mötley Crüe, though, Bush stayed with Anthrax for another three albums after White Noise. They’re not bad albums by any means, but without Spitz on lead guitar, the bulk of the songwriting falls to Ian, and even with Bush contributing, a certain stagnation comes over the band. Bush later left, then returned, then left again, but Anthrax never captured the spark again like they did with Sound of White Noise. White Noise was the band’s fourth consecutive Gold album, reaching that level in just two months. It was also their last Gold album.

MotleyCrueLike with Kotzen joining Poison, John Corabi turned Mötley Crüe into a band to be taken seriously. They tried – and got close – with the 1989 album Dr. Feelgood, which had some darker, deeper tracks, but the eponymous 1994 album with Corabi hits it out of the park. Unfortunately, sales weren’t there to support the much improved musicianship; Dr. Feelgood was a #1 album and sold over 6 million copies, and Mötley Crüe struggled to achieve Gold certification (500,000 sold), debuting at #7 on the US charts but falling from there.

Bob Rock produced both Dr. Feelgood and Mötley Crüe, bringing his polished sensibilities to both records, but he wisely let Crüe go in a much heavier direction than they’d gone before. Corabi shook things up, though, coming to the band as both a lyricist and a guitarist. Bass player Nikki Sixx had pretty much handled all the lyric-writing duties up to that point, with guitarist Mick Mars handling most of the music. Now they had a true collaborator, and it shows; Mötley Crüe has clear influences from Corabi’s previous band, The Scream, and taking the band into more introspective directions and adding a note of social commentary to their songs.

What Corabi brought to the band along with some social awareness was a deeply powerful voice with grit and soul that Neil lacked. Standout tracks on the album are “Power to the Music,” “Uncle Jack,” “Hooligan’s Holiday” (the first single), “Misunderstood” (the 2nd), “Poison Apples,” and “Smoke the Sky.” The album features some truly crushing riffs, showing musical depth and power that isn’t obvious on the band’s other albums.

Corabi participated in one tour that saw the band start in an arena and finish at a house party. There’s the typical blame placed on record labels failing to support/promote the band (and that has a sense of truth in this instance – Elektra, their label, was in the midst of a CEO changeover in 1994). There’s some fan backlash, of course, with many saying Crüe without Neil isn’t Crüe at all. Don’t forget, too, that grunge was on the upswing and metal was quickly being marginalized. Number-one albums in 1994 included Superunknown (Soundgarden), Nirvana’s unplugged album, and Vitalogy (Pearl Jam), along with a smattering of pop and hip-hop albums. The soundtrack for The Lion King was the top-selling album of the year.

The previous year wasn’t much better for metal; 1993’s top-selling album was Whitney Houston’s soundtrack album for her movie with Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard. Nirvana and Pearl Jam showed up at #1, as did U2, Aerosmith, Billy Joel and Garth Brooks. Kind of a depressing year for metal, actually.

At any rate, Corabi fired himself from Mötley Crüe, forcing the rest of the band to admit that the voice their fans wanted to hear was that of Vince Neil. They reinstated the ousted singer, put out the lackluster Generation Swine, which featured two songs co-written by Corabi and one co-written by Bryan “Summer of ‘69” Adams. Corabi later claimed he should have gotten more songwriting credits and royalties for the material on the album and sued the band for a hefty sum, pretty much guaranteeing he’d never get another shot at center stage for Crüe.

Mötley Crüe never played a single song from this album after Corabi left the band. When he was in the band, they added six songs from the album into their set, including the best cuts (“Hooligan’s Holiday,” “Misunderstood,” “Uncle Jack” and “Power to the Music”), but like the other bands discussed here, once he was out of the band, they pretend like his contributions never existed.

There’s something to be said for injecting new blood into an old body, and certainly Poison, Anthrax and Mötley Crüe proved that doing so could inspire them to produce some of the best music they’d ever recorded. One of the big differences between these three bands is that Anthrax fans embraced John Bush as the singer, while Poison and Mötley Crüe fans seemed to largely turn their backs on the bands during these one-album forays with other band members, seemingly without regard to the elevated quality of the music produced on these discs. It’s a shame, really, because of the three albums discussed here, Native Tongue is easily the most accessible and, led by its stellar single “Stand,” could have been a monster hit for the band. Mötley Crüe is easily the band’s most metal album, and Sound of White Noise signaled a tonal shift for Anthrax that should have widened their appeal outside the usual thrash/punk circles.

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top 10 westerns

Top 10 Westerns of All Time

1. Silverado (1985), starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette, Jeff Goldblum & John Cleese.

That’s right – John Cleese as a small-town, old west sheriff. This film just gets better from there. It’s all about debts paid & owed, brotherhood (literal & figurative), corruption, bigotry, and justice. There’s saloons, a fire, and even a standard man vs. man shootout that settles things once and for all. Fantastic dialogue even if the story is a little predictable, and the scenery and cinematography can’t be beat.

2. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969), starring Paul Newman & Robert Redford.

Lethal Weapon before Lethal Weapon was Lethal Weapon – only without the bother of the main characters actually having badges. Slick, witty and historically incorrect, it’s just about the perfect “fun” western.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach & Lee Van Clef.

Possibly the definitive Western, TGTBATU has the greatest three-way standoff ever committed to film. Eastwood is, of course, iconic in his youth and intensity, and nobody before or since has made a serape look as good. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is as iconic as the film. This is the third of three stellar so-called “spaghetti” Westerns made by Sergio Leone and while A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More are also excellent movies, this one takes the cake & represents the series on the list.

4. Blazing Saddles (1974), starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn & Harvey Korman.

Not just a great Western, but a great comedy as well. Rife with racism, foul language, sexual innuendo and violence, this is one fantastic flick. Mel Brooks can practically do no wrong as the writer/director, and it’s wide open from the theme song to the closing credits. Note that this film includes one of the most epic fourth-wall-breaking sequences in film history.

5. Unforgiven (1992), starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman & Gene Hackman.

I love Gene Hackman as the bad guy – the seething, bitter bad guy who may or may not be a monster. Clint Eastwood by the early 1990s is practically a Western trope all by himself, and both his directing and acting in Unforgiven deliver on all levels. Another great modern Eastwood Western is Pale Rider (1985), where Eastwood plays a vengeful preacher. Honestly, I had trouble choosing which one to include on the list, so mentioning it here serves me well.

6. The Magnificent Seven (1960), starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn (in a rare, non-weasel role) & James Coburn.

All about its terrific ensemble cast, TM7 is John Sturges’ well-known Westernization of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. Swap guns in for the swords and fly across the Pacific from Japan to the American southwest and you’ve got TM7. Will they save the town? Will they all die in the process? You’ll have to watch to find out.

7. El Topo (1970), directed by & starring Alejandro Jodorowsky.

This is a Western on acid. Seriously. Just a bizarre movie, and therein lies its charm. The hero wears black and there’s a naked kid running around, but in the end, it’s a classic story of redemption mixed in with a lot of philosophical imagery.

8. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), starring Henry Fonda & Anthony Quinn.

Talk about gripping. It’s old and in black & white, but TOBI is a great, great movie that hits all the important Western tropes – a posse, some shootouts, a stagecoach, and a good old-fashioned hanging. Sort of. You’ll have to watch it to discover whether the cattle rustlers are guilty or innocent. This is Henry Fonda at his youthful best – though his acting chops don’t start to drop off for another 30 years, his intensity and earnestness are at their peak here in the early 1940s. Filmed when the US was at its tipping point in World War 2, it’s hard not to see the underlying questioning of the nature of truth and justice in this film. For another great Henry Fonda Western, see Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

9. Three Amigos (1986), starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase & Martin Short.

There never were any three actors less likely to star in a stellar Western than Martin, Chase & Short. They’re not right for the genre, and of course, that’s exactly why they work so well. This isn’t just a Western, it’s a fish-out-of-water and coming-of-age story as well, and a bit of a revenge epic wrapped in a comedy bow. It’s absolutely ridiculous, which is its charm.

10. 3:10 to Yuma (2007), starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk & Gretchen Mol.

I’m not a fan of remakes in general, but in this isolated case, the remake is better than the (1957) original. Russell Crowe is a great bad guy and Bale comes across well as the broken, desperately poor rancher. The ending is a bit weird, but it’s not so far out there that it’s unsatisfying.

Honorable mentions (not mentioned above): The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Professionals (1966), and High Noon (1952)

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book review: (invasion of) the body snatchers

Original Title: The Body Snatchers; title updated to Invasion of the Body Snatchers with the 1978 edition.  Written by Jack Finney, originally published in 1954 as a short story and as a novel in 1955.  Film versions in 1956, 1978 (my favorite – w/Donald Sutherland), 1993 (Meg Tilly, R Lee Ermy & Forest Whitaker), and 2007 (w/Nicole Kidman & Daniel Craig).

Written in 1954 but set in 1976, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a science fiction classic.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s a fun, fast read.  It won’t challenge you intellectually, but you’ll have fun.  I take that back, actually – you very well may engage in some deeper thinking when you finish this book, I think, but that’s really kind of based on your background more than Finney’s story.

One interesting thing in the story is that the two main characters – Dr. Miles Bennell (our hero) and Becky Driscoll – go to see a movie at one point.  They go see Time and Again – which happens to be another novel written by Finney.  This is a retcon introduced in the 1978 revision – because Finney didn’t write that book until 1970 and it was never made into a movie.  It’s a time travel story, and the method of time travel in that book was used in a movie (1980 – Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), but even that happened after the revision. (I suppose it would have been in the works in 1978, though.)  I don’t have access to a 1955 version of the story, so it may not have originally been set in 1976; Miles is telling the story in the past tense, after all.

The entire novel feels blissfully set in the early 1950s, and indeed Finney serialized this story in Collier’s Magazine in 1954, just another of many short stories he wrote that was published that way.  He fleshed it out a little, adding characters and plot side-points (but not too many, and they’re not too distracting) for the 1955 novel.

Reading the story from a 21st century perspective, the characters – our heroes plus the Belicecs, Theodora (Teddy) and Jack – seem a bit … well, stupid at times.  Miles is a medical doctor with a small family practice – he’s just wrapped up a sprained thumb as the story opens.  Jack is a writer (a nice call-out for Finney himself) and there’s no real indication of what the two women do for a living – or any of the women, actually, which somebody in 2015 might think is weird.

In 1955, not so much.  It would have been nearly scandalous that both Miles and Becky were divorced to somebody reading the book in 1955.  Divorce wasn’t uncommon back then, but divorced people were viewed as more …damaged… by American society, and as such, it would have been no surprise that Miles and Becky end up together.  (Don’t worry, I’m not ruining that – it’s clearly broadcasted from their first meeting that they’ll become an item.)  Their relationship builds as gradually as the story, and there’s some real emotion in it on Miles’ part.  When they finally have sex, it’s portrayed chastely, tastefully, and I wouldn’t hesitate to have a younger pre-teen (that already knows about sex) read this book.  Miles’ description of their first kiss is sweet, tender and full of emotion – which brings me to my next point.

Emotion is the central theme of the book, perhaps, or one of them.  It’s the way the characters identify the pod people.

Oh, wait a minute.  I need to back up.

IMG_1139The town of Santa Mira, a sleepy hamlet near US 101 in California not far from San Diego, is just like any other small town in America.  You can feel the small town atmosphere in Finney’s writing, it just oozes charm and beauty.  Some time in September or October 1976, though, pods drifted into town.

From outer space.

The pods, we soon learn, contain aliens that exist as parasitical mimics.  They float through space, gently, unthreateningly, until they find a planet teeming with life.  They morph themselves in a process that’s described in detail in the book – it’s not disgusting in the least, but it is fairly terrifying – and the become whatever life form it is they’ve imprinted upon.  Once the pod completes its transformation, the original being mimicked disappears in a cloud of dust.  Poof!  Gone!

The new alien mimic is an exact replica of the victim in every way – physically (down to the last scar or mole), mentally (all memories completely intact), and socially (not just social conventions but speech patterns) – but not emotionally.  The aliens-as-us don’t have the emotional depth we do, and that’s what enables a few minor characters to identify them early in the story.  One such minor character, Becky’s cousin Wilma (a very 1955 name if ever there was one) says her Uncle Ira looks, talks, acts, everythings like Uncle Ira – but he isn’t Uncle Ira.  Becky is concerned for her cousin and comes to the good doctor to ask him to go meet Uncle Ira, who of course Miles has known since he was a child.

Miles can’t tell any difference in Uncle Ira, but his curiosity is piqued, and the story boosts from there.

Finney does a great job of portraying emotion between Miles and Becky, and their feelings for each other intensify through the story to their natural culmination.  Because we know how strongly they feel for each other, when they’re confronted by the townies that know they haven’t transformed – led by a colleague of Miles’ named Mannie, a psychiatrist to whom Miles sends the people who feel like their kin aren’t really their kin at the beginning of the story – we can easily see the benefits of being an emotional being and exactly why Miles and Becky resist their nigh-inevitable transformation.

It would have been easy just to go to sleep, after all, and let the change come, but when Miles discovers that the aliens have a limited life span and what they’ll really do to the Earth, he resists, fighting back and (of course) eventually winning.

This isn’t a horror story – I’d call it a thriller.  Maybe a slow-burn thriller.  Finney builds the story well, gradually increasing the tension, until the characters discover – together – what’s really going on.  The pace is excellent and the writing is engaging.  The story is a little predictable, and there’s some points where it’s clear that Miles, Becky, Jack and Theodora are overlooking some quite obvious clues, but in general, they solve the mystery at a good pace.

In that slow-burn vein, one of the best scenes in the book is when Miles and Becky watch – from the window of Miles’ office – the transformed townsfolk gather.  They pin on matching buttons so they can identify who’s been changed and systematically remove – gently, carefully – anybody not wearing the right button.  Then they lay out their plan to take the pods out of Santa Mira.  It’s at that point that Miles knows he has to do something, but he figures out – too late – that the last two pods they saw in the truck were for him and Becky.

Because this book came out in the first decade of the Cold War, there have always been folks who call it a warning about the evils of Communism.  I can see how they came to that conclusion, but I think it’s incorrect.  People have also said it was a warning about Communism’s American antithesis, McCarthyism, and I think that’s incorrect as well.  Maybe I think those portrayals are incorrect because neither Communism nor McCarthyism is a threat in 2015, 60 years after The Body Snatchers came out in book form.

When I read it, I see the theme of change – and not the priceless, beneficial changes we see our children go through.  The scary changes we see ourselves go through as we age. The flattening of life, the suppression of emotions, perhaps even dementia and Alzheimer’s.  The aliens are POD PEOPLE, after all, and alien pod people at that, and they don’t have those human dimensions like we do.  They are, in essence, a shell of what we are, and turning into that shell scares the shit out of us all.  Finney seems to be telling us that change is inevitable, but if you fight hard enough, that change doesn’t have to be uncontrollable and you can change for the better.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers features some violence (the main character assaults and overcomes a policeman) and some scary imagery (when our heroes find some of the “blanks” before they transform).  There is no cursing and a few mentions of sex, including one implied sex scene.  I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this book to a child as young as 10 years old, provided I thought they could handle the idea of space pods drifting to Earth and sitting in the basement, slowly turning into their parents and then replacing them while Mom and Dad sleep.

buying an apple watch – or not

There are some things where it’s not such a bad idea to be an early adopter. It’s pretty safe to buy the newest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy – the technology in them has been vetted for several generations, and they’re not making revolutionary leaps, their advances and changes are strictly evolutionary.

They (and can we trust “them”?) always say not to buy a car (or motorcycle) in its first couplefew model years. While the experience with my 2005 BMW R 1200 GS might prove that out – bad final drive, bad driveshaft, 2nd bad rear wheel carrier/flange, possible/probably ABS/brake servo unit failure (which has happened to many of the bikes from this MY), the well-publicized fuel strip issue (though from later MY bikes than mine), and the crack-prone fuel pump fitting – many auto experts naysay this early-purchase myth.

When it comes to the iWatch (or Apple Watch, as it’s more likely to be called, based on EVERYBODY SAYING SO), I’m very much going to avoid being an early adopter, and in fact, I may never really get around to buying one. Here’s why.

1. I already have a watch.

Actually, I have FOUR of them. Two digital and two analog. The analog watches – one of which I’ve had for probably 20 years – do only a few things. They tell me what time it is, of course, and the date. One of them does only that. The other one has a stopwatch (chronograph) on it. That’s it. The digital watches do those things (and with my preference, the 24-hour clock; I know it’s weird, but I really do prefer knowing it’s 15.30 even though the sun is out and I clearly know which 3.30 it is) and other things as well – I can set multiple clocks on them, alarms, and more.

The truth is, even the digital watches I only use to find out what time it is and occasionally remind myself of the date. (The vagaries of my job keep me up-to-date on tomorrow’s date – which means I usually know today’s date. Usually.)

My point is, I already have a timepiece, and STILL I will occasionally pull the phone out of my pocket to look at the time on it. That’s stupid, yet I still do it. What’s even worse is that I wear my watch on my right wrist and keep my phone in my right front pants pocket – so I actually snag the watch on the edge of the pocket getting the phone out of my pocket. Like I said – stupid, but that’s me.

The #1 reason I continue to wear a watch is because I have a pretty ardent no-electronics policy in my classroom and the last thing I want to be doing is whipping my phone out every 15 minutes during class. If I’m going to ask (forcefully) my students to put their phones away during the lecture, I should adhere to the same rule.

2. I don’t have to charge my analog watch.

I’m right on the edge of charger overload. MacBook, iPad, iPhone, bluetooth earpiece, GPS, camera batteries – hell, even my motorcycle helmet has a communication system in it that has to be recharged. Only the helmet and the GPS use the same cable, which means any time I travel with my electronics, I have to have a brace of chargers and cables just to keep up. While it’s likely the iWatch will charge with the same USB-to-Lightning cable used by the current iPad and iPhone generation, it’s just one more device to keep charged. That means another cable and another wall wart taking up space, if nothing else. It’s all just too much.

My watch batteries last for several years. No charging – and almost always a few days’ warning that the battery is dying.

3. Data security.

Just last week there was a report of yet another security flaw on smartphones – including iPhones. Security breaches and data theft are a huge issue for us right now, and frankly, nobody’s giving us very good answers. The iWatch and its accompanying iPhone will share a wireless connection – which means my personal/private data (whatever it is) will be streaming back and forth between my wrist and my pocket. Apple has not, so far as I can tell, offered any guarantee that my data will be protected or secured. Sure, maybe only my heart rate is flying back and forth, but I set up Apple Pay on my phone. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before some industrious hacker figures out how to bounce a signal off an iWatch to get data off an iPhone. If they can do that, maybe they can nab my credit card number. Having had my credit card number stolen over a wifi connection once made me incredibly wary of unfamiliar wifi networks. Now I’m much more protective of my data.

4. Cost.

Most estimates say the iWatch is going to come in north of $300. I probably haven’t spent $300 on all the watches I have right now – combined – and since I’m saving up to buy a house here in a couple years, I definitely can’t justify the expense.

Plus how pissed are people going to be once the iWatch is out and somebody reverse-engineers the thing, coming out with a nearly-as-good-but-much-cheaper version? It won’t take long for that to happen, and hell, Apple is pretty well known for deep-discounting its last-gen devices. If I decide I really want an iWatch, I know all I need to do is wait til they come out with Mark 2 and I can get Mark 1 at a deep savings.

5. It’s not a wearable version of my phone.

Face it – Dick Tracy (audio trans/receive) and the Venture Brothers (audio AND video trans/receive) still have the coolest watches in the history of watches.  Frankly, the iWatch is still just a watch.  Sure, it’s a watch that can stream music like an iPod and record your pules, but I can’t see your face on it and you can’t talk to me through it.  I’d be a lot more excited about it if it could do those things.

6.  It’s not left-handed.

It’s a silly thing, I know, but I wear my watch on my right wrist.  My favorite watch is an analog piece that has the crown (that’s the button you pull out to set it) on the left side of the face – towards the hand.  If I wear an iWatch, that means I either have to switch my watch over to the left wrist (which is awkward and uncomfortable for me after 30 years of wearing watches on the other arm) or adjust to forever using any function that starts with a button push in an awkward fashion.  This seems like a petty thing, but when you throw that at the bottom of a list of reasons not to get one, it kind of seals the deal.

It is nice to see Apple developing a new platform, even if they weren’t the ones who pioneered it.  I hear the Pebble is a pretty awesome smartwatch, and there’s others out there that have intriguing feature sets and decent reputations already.

I won’t lie and say I’ll never want or own an iWatch. We all pretty much know that I’m an Apple fan and have been for a long time. I even stuck by them when they dumped the Motorola chipset. Right now I’m working hard to break the grip of craving and desire, though, and writing all this down has helped me solidify that I won’t be buying an Apple Watch.

This year.

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Photo courtesy of redmondpie.com